Breathing Techniques for Stress and Calming Your Mind

Breathing Techniques for Stress and Calming Your Mind

"Just breathe" – it doesn't sound like the most helpful advice when you feel like you're drowning in stress. After all, you've been breathing all your life; what more is there to know? However, just taking a deep breath is one of the easiest and most effective ways to relieve stress in the short term. 

Maybe you're snowed under by work, dealing with relationship troubles, or cramming for a big exam. Whatever is causing you stress shouldn't leave you feeling overwhelmed. With a few breathing techniques for stress in your positivity arsenal, you can feel calmer and more relaxed in just a few moments.

In this guide, we cover:

  • What are Breathing Techniques for Stress?
  • 6 Breathing Techniques for Stress

What are Breathing Techniques for Stress?

Isn't breathing just breathing? What's so special about a breathing technique? Known as breathwork, it differs substantially from the unthinking form of breathing most of us practice in everyday life. Here, you're intentionally controlling your breath in a particular pattern.

We tend to think that how we breathe is affected by our moods and emotions. That's true. If we're anxious, our breath is shallow and short. But the reverse is also true – how we breathe can affect our stress levels and calmness. 

Little wonder that breathwork forms the foundation of meditation, mindfulness, and yoga. Even weightlifters use their breath to exert more force during a particular exercise. Such breathing techniques for stress involve slow, deep breathing in which we fully expand our lungs, activating the "rest and digest" system (or parasympathetic nervous system). 

6 Breathing Techniques for Stress

1. Three Breath Exercise

By far, this is the simplest breathing exercise for stress: you can perform this exercise anytime, anywhere. You can use this technique when you're waiting for a job interview, sitting an exam, or even when you've got a few moments at a traffic light.

Remember to take your time with each breath. The purpose isn't to rush through the exercise but to slow down your stress response. When used correctly, it's one of the greatest life hacks.

Here's what you need to do:

  1. Inhale deeply through your nose, filling your lungs completely.
  2. Hold your breath for a moment.
  3. Exhale slowly and fully through your mouth.
  4. Repeat the cycle three times, focusing on the sensation of the breath moving in and out of your body.

2. Pursed Lip Breathing

Pursed lip breathing forces you to slow down your breathing speed by making each breath harder to complete. You can use this breathing technique during activities like bending or lifting. But also when you're faced with a stressful situation.

Practice the technique a handful of times a day to get the hang of it. Then, you can apply it whenever you feel you need to slow down and "catch your breath." 

Here's what you need to do:

  1. Breathe in slowly through your nose for about two seconds.
  2. Pucker your lips as if you're going to whistle.
  3. Exhale gently through pursed lips for about four seconds.
  4. Repeat the process, focusing on controlled and prolonged exhalation.

3. Lion's Breath

The lion's breath is the exact opposite of pursed lip breathing. Known as the Lion's Pose or Simhasana in Sanskrit, it is an energizing yoga breathing technique for stress. Through this exercise, you can feel rejuvenated and shed your stress and anxiety. 

Here's what you need to do:

  1. Inhale deeply through your nose.
  2. Open your mouth wide, and stick your tongue out downwards, toward the chin.
  3. Exhale forcefully through your mouth, making a "ha" sound.
  4. Repeat, focusing on releasing tension with each exhale.

4. Mindful Meditation

Meditation doesn't have to be complicated. It involves closing your eyes and focusing on your breath. As your mind drifts off – as it inevitably will – you simply bring your concentration back to the breath. There's a misconception that you need to sit for hours in mindful meditation. Not so! Even a few minutes daily can have an effect. 

Want to learn more? Headspace is a brilliant app that provides tons of breathing and meditation exercises. 

Here's what you need to do:

  1. Sit comfortably and close your eyes.
  2. Breathe naturally, without trying to control your breath.
  3. Focus your attention on the breath and how your body moves with each inhalation and exhalation.
  4. If your mind wanders, return your focus back to your breath.

5. Deep Breathing

Feeling short of breath? Deep breathing should be your go-to antidote, helping to fully ventilate your lungs. The brilliance of deep breathing is that it forces you to slow down, improving your blood's oxygenation. Not only does that make you feel more relaxed and centered, but it should also lower your heart rate. 

Here's what you need to do:

  1. Sit or lie down comfortably, placing one hand on your belly and the other on your chest.
  2. Inhale deeply through your nose, allowing your belly to push your hand out while your chest remains relatively still.
  3. Exhale deeply through your mouth or nose, feeling the belly pull inward.
  4. Repeat several times, focusing on deep, full breaths.

6. Equal Breathing

Equal breathing, or Sama Vritti in Sanskrit, involves making your inhalation and exhalation the same length. Why? Well, people tend to rush one or the other. This breathing technique for stress ensures your breath is smooth and steady. 

Here's what you need to do:

  1. Sit in a comfortable position and close your eyes.
  2. Inhale through your nose for a count of four.
  3. Hold your breath for a count of four.
  4. Exhale through your nose for a count of four.
  5. Repeat the cycle, aiming for an equal length of time for inhales, holds, and exhales.

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